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(This is a feeble translation of a story by Bibhutibhusan Bandyopadhyay. The objective is merely to exhort readers to read the original, or a better translation)
This incident occurred a few years ago. When I now recall it, I sometimes dismiss it as merely a figment of my imagination — perhaps a hallucinatory effect caused by a fevered body or something of that kind. But my heart says no; there is no reason to dismiss the incident as untrue or imaginary. My experience was real!
I must narrate the incident in some detail.
But let me emphasize at the very beginning that I have not suffered from any illness during the last ten years. I am not afflicted by any mental disorders now or at the time of the incident, around four years ago. I was in perfect mental health. My life as a school teacher till then had been rather uneventful, and I had not experienced anything extraordinary or out of the world. Like any other school teacher, my life, too, was guided by ordinary and routine duties.
It was the rainy season during that year, to which I allude. After the summer vacations, I was teaching in the class one day when I noticed a boy trying to snatch something away from another boy. When I rebuked them and asked them to behave themselves, a third student said, "Sir, Kamikkhye is trying to take Sudhir's medal."
"What medal? Whose medal?"
Sudhir stood up and said, "Sir, it is my medal."
I turned to the other boy and asked, "Why were you taking his medal, Kamikkhye?"
Kamikkhye, whose full name was Kamakkhyacharan Maulik, said, "I wasn't taking it, sir. I only wanted to see it, but he wouldn't let me ..."
"It is his medal, and if he does not wish to show it you have no right to snatch it. Sit down, and don't do that again."
I then delivered a brief lecture on the need for the boys to live like brothers. My curiosity, however, was piqued, and I told Sudhir, "Let me see the medal. From where did you get it?"
The boy must have received the medal in a sports competition, I thought. These days some sports competitions like badminton, swimming, and athletics are regularly held in the Kolkata neighbourhoods. Sudhir must have come runners-up in some such competition and received the medal, the size of a coin, and naturally wanted to show it to the others in his boyish pride. It wouldn't come as a surprise if the boys demanded a holiday to celebrate the success! So, when Sudhir eventually handed the medal to me, I took it rather unconcernedly.
But when I looked at the medal carefully, it made me sit up straight. No, this wasn't a medal that could have been awarded in a local sports competition. The medal was old-fashioned, quite large, and beautifully made. What is it?
Some words were inscribed on the medal, but the dimly-lit classroom rendered it difficult for me to read them. On the obverse side was engraved a picture of Queen Victoria. I had forgotten to bring my spectacles. Meanwhile, the boys had gathered around me and were peering over my shoulders; I rebuked them and told them to go back to their seats.
I asked one of the boys to read aloud what was written on the medal.
It wasn't an easy task for a boy studying in the fourth grade but he managed to spell out the words "Crimea", "Sevastopol", "Victoria", "Regina".
"What's on the other side?"
"Sergeant S B Parkins 6th Drags. Guards - 1854 ...."
I was astonished beyond words. During the Crimean War, the medal had been awarded to Sergeant Parkins for an act of bravery in the Battle of Sevastopol. This was extraordinary!
Crimea ... Sevastopol ... Charge of the Light Brigade! But how did the medal come to be in the possession of Sudhir Saha, a resident of Neelmoni Das Lane in Kolkata?
Come here; from where did you get this medal?"
"It belongs to me, sir."
"Yes, I understand it belongs to you, but from where did you get it?"
"My grandfather gave it to me, sir."
"Do you know from where your grandfather got it?"
"Yes sir; a white soldier had entrusted it to the keeping of my grandfather's father."
"We had a liquor shop. The soldier had several drinks but ran short of money, so he gave the medal but never returned. I have heard this from my grandfather."
Some useful links for
- Union Public Service Commission - www.upsc.gov.in
- IIT-Kharagpur - www.iitkgp.ac.in
- Indian Statistical Institute - www.isical.ac.in
- Indian Institute of Technology Madras - www.iitm.ac.in
- Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad - www.iimahd.ernet.in
- Indian Institute of Mass Commission - www.iimc.nic.in
- IIT Bombay - www.iitb.ac.in
- Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad - www.ismdhanbad.ac.in
- Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi - www.bitmesra.ac.in
- Central Institute of Fisheries Nautical and Engineering Training - www.cifnet.nic.in
- Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad (Deemed University) - www.iiita.ac.in
- Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi - www.cmfri.com
- Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai - www.tiss.edu